We spent a fun weekend on the lake. Sunday morning, I was greeted by 7 or 8 little barn swallows grooming themselves on the lifelines and jib sheets of the boat next to us. I stole this shot of one in the morning sun. It’s hard to get a good photo of these little ones because they usually dart around and never light on anything close by.
A male (red) & female (yellow) summer tanager couple:
While hiking at Pedernales Falls this week, I brought my camera along. I wasn’t really birding, but I was keeping an eye out for them. We saw a number of species of birds. This one was a lifer for me – a mississippi kite. I am really surprised this turned out, the bird was at least 200 feet away, way atop a dead, scraggly tree. The sky was very overcast and the light was flat. After severely cropping and adjusting the exposure, I like how this one turned out. The kite is a cool looking bird.
Scissor-tailed flycatcher, in motion. They say the male’s tail is longer than the female’s, so I’m guessing this is a she.
Taken at Commons Ford park.
I really don’t have the intention of turning this photoblog into a birding blog, but since, for the time being, I’m spending lots of time looking for my feathered friends, bird moments are what you get. 🙂 But I will try to work some other subjects in.
I was watering plants out back this afternoon and heard some birds making a ruckus in one of the trees by the fence. I walked over to find several birds squawking at a large shape sitting in the tree. I’ve discovered hawks and crows in other similar situations, which quickly fly away after I walk under the tree. I walked along the fence line to see if I could get a good look at what it was. I saw our resident eastern screech-owl:
He didn’t budge, other to turn his head from time to time. I didn’t have my camera when I first saw him, so I walked back to the house to get it. He was still sitting there when I got back. I assume he has a nest he is guarding. I’ve captured him on the infrared critter cam once or twice at night, but have never laid eyes on him before in person. And he can say the same.
I was excited to see my first ever painted bunting this spring, and several others since then; all on different visits to Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park. I haven’t captured a NatGeo-esque photo of one yet, but I was happy to get this one today, showing its beautiful colors on display. If you would like to see your first one, too, check out the park.
I spent Friday night and Saturday with friends that are participating in this weekend’s MS-150 bicycle ride from Houston to Austin. After taking their luggage to the drop-off point at Tully Stadium at dawn, I spent the rest of Saturday exploring and birding in several parks outside of Houston with Doray.
While our friends were pedalling their hearts out on the 100-mile Day 1 of the two-day MS-150, we had a very fun day. We visited Cullinan Park, Fiorenza Park and Bear Creek Pioneers Park. I’m still going through my photos to figure out exactly what we spotted.
While walking on one of the trails at Cullinan Park, I nearly stepped on this snake. I didn’t see him because I was looking up into the tree tops as I was walking, trying to spot birds. I’m very thankful for good luck, my guardian angel, and cat-like reflexes 🙂 , because I have since learned that this is a venomous juvenile cottonmouth snake. 😮
My day could have turned out very differently if I hadn’t been lucky.
Be careful out there, folks.
A new visitor out back – black and white warbler. A very invisible birdie, he just blends in to the trees.
Today I saw the most bird species in my back yard since I have started paying attention. I was treated to a few surprise visitors, due to the migration that is in-progress right now, and all the good old locals.
An adorable pair of black-crested titmice have decided to make a hollowed out mimosa tree in the way back their home. I got a few pictures of them: venturing out of the nest, bringing material to build the nest, and chowing down on bark butter conveniently hanging nearby.
Seeing if the coast is clear:
If you hang around Central Texans long enough, you will learn that we are fond of bestowing our own pronunciation on the names of some of our favorite local places; confounding out-of-towners, I’m sure.
One of those place names is “Pedernales” – the name of a river, a series of water falls, and a state park. Take note: locals refer to it as “per-din-al-iss.”
Whether or not you can say it right, you must go see all three. I took a day trip and visited Pedernales Falls State Park today. I enjoyed visiting their bird blind, walking down to the Falls, scoping out birds while hiking, doing a little geocaching, and taking in the beautiful scenery on a gorgeous day.
The falls from the scenic vantage point above:
I had an unexpected morning free, so I headed to the Bull Creek Preserve again to go explore the trails. Note that entrance to the the Preserve is restricted between March and July each year. You’ll need to apply for an entry permit to enter during those months. Today my goal was to catch a glimpse of the endangered golden-cheek warbler that nests in the preserve after migrating here in early March from Central America. I went out on Monday and had a great 3 hour hike, and heard their calls everywhere, but I didn’t see the little bird – they were very elusive.
Today, I tried some different trails in the Preserve, and I finally saw several of them! Next, I pulled out my camera to try to get a decent shot. I took many more than these few photos, but together they might give you an idea of how hard it is to get a good shot. Most of these won’t look like much unless you can zoom in on them…
I saw one sitting on the power line. Right. Above. My. Head. But, by the time I got the camera up and focused, zoooom, he was gone. See the little bullet-shaped bird with a yellow head exiting the frame on the right?
A while later… I saw one in a shrub about 30 feet away! See him in the center of the frame? But, darnit, he wasn’t facing me.
And then… zoooom, he took flight. See the little yellow headed torpedo coming toward the camera?
Then several miles and about 2 hours later…. one popped out of a cedar branch at eye level about 10 feet away! He even posed for a minute. I got several shots. This is the clearest. Success! I’ll be back for more, though. 🙂
I’ve been observing my backyard especially carefully over the past several months. I love that I was able to observe several Bewick’s wrens among the frequent visitors. I recently hung a couple of new birdhouses up under the eaves, hoping to get some takers this year. We also have a number of older birdhouses that have been hanging out there for several years, including one that I made and hung in the backyard over six years ago. As I have been stalking my backyard birds more carefully, I’ve watched two pairs of Bewick’s wrens pick out houses in which they have built nests.
Rest assured, I will keep an eye on them and report back. 🙂 This is one of the residents of a new house that I hung a few weeks ago. I bought it at Joann’s – it had the desirable-to-bewicks dimensions. I drilled holes in the bottom for airflow, and I also cut off the perch. So cute!
This is the one of the new residents of the seasoned peek-a-boo bird house I made in December of 2011. Happy to see it in use.
I’ll be watching to see what develops.
I have been away for a bit. Since I last posted…
On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country. As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person. I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited. But, I didn’t have my camera with me. So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek. I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him. Success! A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive. 🙂
The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters. We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation. It was a nice weekend. We shared laughs and memories and a few tears. I enjoyed it. I also snapped way too many pictures. This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.
Spokane has gotten much snow this year. The nearby rivers are flooding and raging. This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.
I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent. Have a good week!